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Brainstorm Health Daily: April 26, 2017

I talk a lot about revolution in this space. (That’s a healthcare revolution for those just joining us. Put those pitchforks down, please.) But for the most part, I have focused on technological upheaval: how the extraordinary tools and platforms of the digital age are feverishly disrupting the way we do virtually everything in our pursuit of well-being—an effort, mind you, that in 2015 cost the U.S. alone $3.2 trillion, or $9,990 per person.

But the breakthroughs in health-tech—advances that, in theory at least, should make essential care more accessible to and cheaper for both consumers and providers—is only part of the transformation now underway. Indeed, it may be the least revolutionary part.

A more tectonic—or “tech-tonic”—frameshift, as Dr. Eric Topol writes, is what’s happening to the patient-doctor relationship: The power is fast migrating from the “paternalistic,” information-controlling healthcare provider (for shorthand, “the doctor”) to the consumer who is paying for that care and information, and who needs it most—and importantly, who, once empowered and trained, can best manage it.

That is the critically important message of Topol’s masterfully argued 2015 manifesto, The Patient Will See You Now—which, I’m ashamed to say, I only began reading (and finished) yesterday.

I have known Topol—a professor of genomics and chair of innovative medicine at the Scripps Research Institute, founder and director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, and a respected cardiologist to boot—for some time. His seminal 2012 book on the digital health revolution, The Creative Destruction of Medicine, predicted much of what has come since. And I have been avidly following the man’s posts and commentary on the subject for years. (If you haven’t, you should.) So, for the life of me, I don’t know how I missed The Patient Will See You Now.

That said, reading the book two years after publication, it’s clear that Topol’s driving thesis is dead-on. The ability to move information and data instantly, from anywhere to anywhere, has already shifted the balance of power from service providers to consumers in nearly every industry—retail, publishing, travel, finance, and so on. But for years a deeply ingrained medical paternalism slowed that trend from happening in healthcare. Now, as if a dam has broken, that change is rushing forth in a deluge, Topol shows. And he illustrates it with a stream of compelling anecdotes, eye-catching data, and no small amount of instructive history.

It’s not just the steady march of technology that’s propelling this transfer of power. It’s also a brigade of courageous, enterprising patients themselves who are making the most of that tech—from innovative smartphone apps to social media to online genomic databases to telemedicine.

The sum effect, writes Topol, is nothing short of transformative:

“When each individual owns and takes part in generating their entire set of medical data and information, including records, notes, labs, images, omics, sensors; when they have complete assurance of privacy and security, such that their identity will not be revealed and their data will not be sold or misused; when individuals become fully respected by their doctors and on an equal footing; when the individual now unabashedly asks the right questions, drives the process, and makes the choices; when individuals have full access to the cloud, supercomputing, and telemedicine, and there is total transparency for data on doctors and hospitals with respect to outcomes, costs, and ratings; when it is for all ordinary people, anywhere in the world. When all that is true, we’re not just talking medical empowerment. We’re talking medical emancipation.”

Okay, fine. Go ahead and grab your pitchfork!

The day’s news below.

Clifton Leaf, Editor in Chief, FORTUNE
@CliftonLeaf
clifton.leaf@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

The artificial womb that could keep premature babies alive. It sounds like the stuff of science fiction. But on Tuesday, doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia announced that they’d kept premature baby lambs alive for longer (and produced lambs that were healthier) than had ever been achieved before with an artificial womb—a technological advance that could potentially be used to keep prematurely born human babies alive in the future. The so-called “Biobag” emulates a placenta; it’s made out of translucent plastic and filled with a special fluid and is connected with a machine that oxygenates blood. This is especially important since babies (of the lamb and human varieties alike) that are born extremely prematurely don’t have sufficiently developed lungs to properly breathe in air. By allowing them to survive in this artificially constructed haven, the preemies have enough time for their lungs to grow. If further animal studies prove effective, human trials for the system could launch in three to five years; but there are expected to be numerous hurdles to applying the tech to human babies. (Wall Street Journal)

EXCLUSIVE: Arianna Huffington’s Thrive sleep startup is teaming up with LinkedIn. My Fortune colleague Rachel King has a scoop: Arianna Huffington’s new outfit, the sleep- and wellness-focused Thrive Global, is joining forces with networking and social media platform LinkedIn to help professionals deal with chronic problems such as stress and burnout. “At the moment, professionals are living and working under the delusion that in order to succeed, they have to burn out,” Huffington tells Rachel. The new project involves a series of LinkedIn Learning courses on simple ways that workers can improve their well-being. And the videos will feature some high-profile names, including Warby Parker CEO Dave Gilboa and NBA superstar Kobe Bryant (as well as Huffington herself). (Fortune)

Babies of Technology author Tom Ekman on what we’re getting wrong about creating the “perfect child.” Tom Ekman, co-author of the new book Babies of Technology: Assisted Reproduction and the Rights of the Child, has an intriguing guest post for Fortune centered on the promise—and the perils—of groundbreaking new technologies that can modify the human genome. Ekman notes that we’re not quite on the verge of creating “superbabies” and that gene-editing tech like CRISPR-Cas9 heralds hope for children born with devastating diseases; but he also notes that this type of innovation may be out of reach for poorer parents who know their children will carry a genetic aberration but can’t afford the reproductive technology once it becomes mainstream, in effect creating what Ekman calls a “new caste system with a high society of the genetically-enhanced.” While he believes that the enhanced human is inevitable, Ekman believes it’s critical to set up responsible global standards, in part to prevent medical tourism where people flock to countries with more lenient rules around genetic engineering. (Fortune)

INDICATIONS

Longtime Teva CFO Desheh to step down in major shakeup. Eyal Desheh, chief financial officer of Teva Pharmaceuticals since 2008, is stepping down after nearly 10 years on the job in the wake of the drug giant’s recent struggles. The departure comes just months after former Teva chief Erez Vigodman resigned and was replaced by interim CEO Yitzhak Peterburg. In recent years, several costly acquisitions by Teva (and a number of delayed drug launches) has taken a toll on the company’s stock, leading to investor calls for structural and management changes at the world’s largest generic drug maker. Teva shares are up 2.5% in early Wednesday trading but down more than 43% from one year ago. (Reuters)

J&J, Bayer face thousands of lawsuits centering on blood thinner. The first trial in a series of more than 18,000 patient lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and Bayer, creators of the blood thinning treatment Xarelto, is set to being in New Orleans next Monday. The suits center on internal bleeding associated with the medicine that plaintiffs say the companies failed to sufficiently outline; the firms strongly deny those allegations. “The allegations made in the Xarelto lawsuits contradict years of data on the medicine and the FDA’s determination of its safety and efficacy,” said one J&J spokesperson. Bayer added that it “stands behind the safety and efficacy of Xarelto” and potential bleeding risks are clearly mentioned in the drug’s label. Xarelto brought in $3.24 billion in sales for Bayer last year. (Chicago Tribune)

Walgreens collected 72 tons of unused medications in a year. Retail pharmacy chain Walgreens announced on Wednesday that it collected 72 tons of unused medicines in the first year of its new safe drug disposal program. The firm placed medicine disposal kiosks in 600 of its pharmacies in 45 states and D.C. under the initiative, which launched last February. And the announcement comes just ahead of the Drug Enforcement Agency-backed (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take Back Day this Saturday, which is meant to take unneeded meds out of people’s cabinets and drawers (where they could be taken by children) and stop them from flushing pills down the toilet, which has environmental repercussions. This is one part of the effort to combat America’s opioid crisis; on another front, Walgreens has also made the opioid overdose antidote naloxone available without a prescription in 44 states and D.C.

THE BIG PICTURE

 

TED Prize winner Dr. Raj Panjabi announces what he’ll do with his $1 million winnings. Dr. Raj Panjabi, winner of the 2017 TED Prize, announced what he plans to do with the $1 million that comes with the award Tuesday night: launch a Community Health Academy in Liberia to train community health workers—the cause at the heart of his nonprofit, Last Mile Health, whose work in Liberia helped staunch the recent Ebola epidemic by giving locals basic health and prevention training. The Liberian-born Panjabi hopes that the training system, which will use modern educational techniques like online and smartphone-enabled training, can eventually go global.

REQUIRED READING

This Hotshot Data Company Hopes to One-Up Googleby Barb Darrow 

Donald Trump Says Americans Will Get ‘The Biggest Tax Cut’ in U.S. Historyby Associated Press

The 25 Best Workplaces in the Bay Areaby Fortune Editors

Police Arrest Intoxicated Man After Brawling With Crime-Fighting Robotby Don Reisinger

Produced by Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

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